Veterans’ Families Bear the Greatest Burden of War

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Courtesy of NYU(NEW YORK) — Corinne Camacho of New York City is anxious and having trouble sleeping since her husband’s Army National Guard unit’s recent deployment to Afghanistan.  For the next year, she will be on her own with their three children, aged 11, 6 and 3.

“I have a lot of anxiety about being with the kids myself,” said Camacho, 42.  “I work full-time and he’s the cook of the family. … I will also be thinking about him — I am definitely worried.”

Camacho sought help from the Military Family Clinic at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, one of the first clinics of its kind to provide mental health services for some of the 15,000 Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans and their families living in the region.

Conditions treated include anxiety, depression, panic, trauma, stress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), grief, loss and bereavement, as well as children’s behavioral problems or academic difficulties, all of which are associated with the impact of military service on families.

“Generally, they come in for anxiety disorders — and PTSD is under that umbrella — and a lot of readjustment issues in the family,” said clinical psychologist Irina Komarovskaya.

“Sometimes, it not just psychotherapy they need but a bridge to other services like assistance in applying for benefits or insurance or housing,” she said.  “We can refer them to other agencies.”

The clinic, funded with a $500,000 grant from the poverty-fighting Robin Hood foundation hopes to serve 300 families a year, most of whom are economically disadvantaged or under insured.

Mental health treatment for spouses, children, parents or siblings of veterans is generally not available through the Veterans Administration (VA) health care system, and couples therapy is limited.

One 2008 VA study revealed that 41 percent of eligible veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars do not enroll because they fear medical records will damage their careers, according to NYU.

The clinic is now treating veterans who have served not just in Afghanistan and Iraq, but in Vietnam and even in World War II.  About half of the patients seen are post-9/11 returning veterans, according to psychiatrist Dr. Dara Cho.

“Half are not deployed or served in another era,” Cho said.  “There are a lot of military spouses calling and seeking individual or couples treatment.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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